I must confess that reading Robert Whitaker’s book Anatomy of an Epidemic is getting me down. He has nailed the human carnage that usually begins with the psychiatrist saying to the patient, “you have an incurable disease and you are going to need meds for the rest of your life just like a diabetic needs insulin.” We have all heard this Orwellian phrase and it is absolutely untrue but that is what we have all been told. So begins the slippery slope that we have all been on. And when I say “we” I include people like me in this because I am collateral damage. I suffer too from being told my son is incurable and needs the drugs.
Someone on another blog, a psychiatrist no less, accused Robert Whitaker of sensationalizing the negativity, especially when it comes to the drugs. I don’t see it and the fact that a psychiatrist doesn’t see this is troubling, especially if he’s taken the time to read the book. Whitaker’s book is factual, he interviews psychiatrists, researchers and patients alike, and what they report is what I know to be true. People used to have mental illnesses and got over them or suffered from them episodically. Whitaker links the rise of the number of people collecting disability for mental illnesses to the long term use of drugs – they are being treated as if they have an immediate, life-threatening, chronic illness.
Teenagers, a group in which depression was almost unheard of a few decades ago, are particularly vulnerable. Antidepressants can kick start a lifetime merry-go-round of drug use. The number of young people in the book who went in for depression, were treated with an antidepressant, went manic and told they were bipolar is not surprising. I have learned enough on my own to know this happens. We are not anecdotal evidence. We are real and numerous.
Who ever heard of bipolar disorder a few years ago? I hadn’t until about fifteen years ago when a friend went fairly loopy. Now, bipolar disorder is the flavor du jour – seems like everybody has it and may include those who would prefer not to say they might be schizophrenic. You are never not bipolar these days, probably due to the drugs that you need to take like a diabetic must take insulin. I had heard of manic-depression, but only knew of one person over the course of my life who was diagnosed with it. Every so often she would flip out and have to be hospitalized and take her lithium. Otherwise she carried on as the life of the party – and died at a fairly ripe old age.
Nobody today is going to die at a ripe old age if they permit their doctor to turn their personal coping skills into a biological disease. Judging from the swollen ranks of those collecting long term disability they won’t even be working.